Hearing Loss And Mental Acuity, What is The Connection?
The Hearing Clinic - Scarborough, ON

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A term that gets frequently tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. The majority of health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several factors. One’s mental acuity is impacted by several factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

Along with mind altering disorders like dementia, hearing loss has also been established as a contributing factor for mental decline.

The Link Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study which revealed a relationship between dementia, a loss in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in individuals who suffer from hearing loss.

Memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined by the study in which researchers noticed a reduction in cognitive abilities. And though hearing loss is usually regarded as a typical part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its significance.

Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Beyond Loss of Memory

Not just memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have loss of hearing according to another study. Hospitalization and injury from a fall were also found to be more likely in this study’s participants.

A study of 600 older adults in 2011 concluded that participants who didn’t suffer from hearing loss were not as likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have loss of hearing. And an even more revealing statistic from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Participants with more extreme loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to encounter symptoms of dementia.

But the work performed by researchers at Johns Hopkins is scarcely the first to stake a claim for the relationship between loss of hearing and a lack of cognitive aptitude.

International Research Backs up a Connection Between Loss of Hearing And Mental Decline

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that dementia will be developed more frequently and earlier by people who have loss of hearing than by those with average hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two separate causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that individuals with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. Typically, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

Scores on cognitive tests pertaining to memory and thought were lower in those people who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.

Although researchers were sure about the connection between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation remains a mystery.

The Way Hearing Loss Can Impact Mental Acuity

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in comprehension of speech and words.

The theory suggests that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which functions as a receiver of information before processing, alongside associated alterations to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.

What to do if You Have Loss of Hearing

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who may be at risk is staggering.

Two out of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is regarded as considerable loss of hearing. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of those from 45 to 65.

Hearing aids can provide a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating risks for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
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